Birdsong brings art talent to Portales

Jon Birdsong loves art, Portales and riding his dirt bike along the banks of the Canadian River. He recently completed an animal mural at the All Pets Animal Hospital in Clovis, and he’s extremely proud that Pres. Gerald Ford placed one of his paintings in the White House. The father, husband and teacher hopes to continue with his passion of painting for many years to come.

Name: Jon Birdsong
Job: Portales Junior High School art teacher and local artist.
Age (and birth date):
Hometown: Amarillo
Family: Wife Ronnie; daughter Ronda; sons Jeff, Jon and Michael; grandchildren Nolan, Conor and Ruby.

What do you think of Portales?
“I have found the people to be great, and living in a university community is a real benefit. A little less wind and more rainfall would be super.”

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
“A day of dirt bike riding at the Canadian River with the family. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen these days.”

Who’s invited to your dinner party and why?
“Emillio Caballero (past head of art department at West Texas State University), who inspired me toward my career in art, and Georgia O’Keeffe. I would love to grasp more of both their genius.”
Who are your favorite entertainers?
“Actor: Clint Eastwood. Musicians: Marty Robbins and Roy Orbison, and of course my son Jon when he is playing tunes I can enjoy.”

What is your favorite TV show, past and present?
“Past: ‘Cheers’ and ‘Barney Miller.’ Present: ‘Survivor’ and ‘Cold Case.’”

What’s so great about your favorite sport?
“In college I was the ‘Big Dog’ hunter. One day while freezing on a pheasant hunt, I decided I wasn’t having any fun and I really didn’t enjoy killing animals, so I sold all my guns and equipment. Other than a short time playing golf, I turned to years of racing boats and motorcycles rather than to the ‘old standards’ kind of sports.”

What do you envision your life being like in 10 years?
“I plan to still be painting and teaching workshops, however, a little more time lounging with our Yorkies would be nice.”

What is your greatest fear?
“Losing good health and any of my immediate family members before me.”

What is your greatest hope?
“We have been very fortunate with our kids. My hope is they all continue to find success with their families and careers.”

What would you like printed on your gravestone?
“No gravestones! I choose to be cremated and my boys are to scatter my ashes along my favorite motorcycle trails at the Canadian River.”

What is your favorite taste?
“My wife’s chili and green chili stew.”

What do you like best about your job?
“As a public school art teacher it has always been a wonderful feeling seeing the pride kids have when they accomplish a quality piece of art. As a professional artist, it’s always great to accept challenging subject matter, then see that idea come together on canvas in a way you feel others will enjoy. A recent example is the animal mural I just completed at the All Pets Animal Hospital in Clovis. By-the-way challenges aren’t always successful.”

What is the least favorite part about your job?
“The amount of time in a day that is spent on the few students who choose to create problems that take away from those who want to learn. It’s amazing how many discipline problems are parent-generated.”

Tell us about your parents:
“I was raised by my grandparents. My grandmother was wonderful, but gullible. My granddad was an alcoholic and died when I was in the ninth grade, which created a tough life situation. I went to work at the age of 10 throwing newspapers and maintained a job all through high school and college. I survived and managed two degrees, so I know kids can pull themselves out of a negative environment. It’s hard and maybe it’s harder today.”

Tell us about your pets:
“We have six Yorkies and one Maltese. My wife and I are very active in National Yorkie rescue. Many of our clan are rescues and several have minor handicaps. They range in size from 2.5 pounds to around 5 pounds. They are true pleasures, except when the doorbell rings.”

What are your greatest accomplishments?
“Graduating from college instead of a detention center would top the list. I had one of my paintings accepted by President Ford to hang in the White House during his administration. That was pretty cool.”

Greatest Failures:
“There are just too many to list.”

Most embarrassing moment:
“My first jump on an Army skydiving team; my altimeter failed and I opened way to low. I landed against some buildings, way off the drop zone which was in front of some 20,000 people at an Armed Forces event. My team leader was not impressed, but he got over it. I became the team jump master.”

Do you have any advice to give to others?
“Be fair and caring to others (including animals); in the process don’t forget family. When you fail, don’t give up. Keep on keeping on. And most important, don’t forget to appreciate all those who will help you start again. They are true treasurers.”